My name is Ton Wilthagen and I hold a chair in Institutional and legal aspects of the labor market at Tilburg University, the Netherlands. I am also one of the figureheads of the social impact program of this university: “Advancing Society”. My key research and policy interest lie in balancing dynamism in the labor market and society with social cohesion and inclusion. This theme characterizes all aspects of my work, no matter what concrete topic at hand. I was the first academic to develop the concept of flexicurity, which became a flagship policy of the EU as from 2007. This is why I am still called "mr. Flexicurity" in Europe.
My basic training is in sociology - first at Tilburg University (i.e. its predecessor), subsequently University of Amsterdam. I have previously worked at various institutes at the UvA in the field of labour law and industrial relations,. An important part of my 'Bildung' took place at the Science Center Berlin, as a visiting researcher.
Both my expertise and interests are very broad. I study all aspects of the labor market, labor law, work, (un)employment, social security, training and education and labor relations to some depth. Much of my work has concentrated on labour market flexibility and security, on so-called transitional labor markets (how to support good transitions in the labor market, how to avoid bad ones) and on inclusive labor markets (sometimes referred to as a 'parallell labor market'). At the same time I am very interested in all driving forces that influence the labor market and people's work. Therefore I also look at technology (robotisation, artificial intelligence) and political-institutional change and governance. I have a passion for both Europe and regional developments and governance, not just as an object of study, but also in terms of putting things into practice. I am also a typical multidisciplinary scholar, keen on crossing borders between disciplines and departments.
In the past I have been teaching courses such as "The Sociology of Social Law", "Interdisciplinary Study of Law" (for ten years in the Tilburg-Leuven Research Master in Law) and currently a Dutch-language course on "Markets, Government and Society" (Markt, overheid en Middenveld) within the bachelor of public administration (bestuurskunde) at Tilburg University. I have also extensively taught at other universities and have vast experience in presenting and debating at public events, conferences and seminars at the European, national, regional and local level. Invariably my approach is to bridge the academic perspective with societal and practical perspectives and experiences and not to shy away from considering the implications and innovations that can be derived from scientific work. For me, the ideal situation is to work with student teams that address major, wicked problems in society and develop their academic knowledge and skills along the way.
I am blessed with a strong network of persons and organizations that also aim at innovating and impacting society. These collaborations seldom only involve academics, more often other stakeholders as well. Partners include municipalities, the triple helix actors within regions, companies, schools, social partners (employers, trade unions), national governments and international bodies such as the European Commission, the Council of Europe, the International Labor Organization, OECD etc. I have various roles here: leader of the labor market theme of Brainport Network, representative within the Technology Pact, member of the Dutch Coalition for Technology and Inclusion etc. I have initiated various social innovations, e.g. the Work Experience Grant for unemployed youngsters (Startersbeurs), a reshoring tool to reconsider firm's location of production etc. I am active in the media, not to be famous, but to help explain and improve things and contribute to debate and dialogue.